Brain Damage

Randy’s running this low-powered supers-in-Gotham thing. Interesting background. Interesting atmosphere. Running it with Mutants and Masterminds, which is a 3.x d20 riff.

I’ve been feeling a vague hankering for supers stuff. (Dear City of Heroes — go Free to Play. Signed, Me.)

I expressed an interest, came up with a concept, dug around on the internet and found a couple write-ups that seemed to have the powers I wanted, mushed them all into one sheet, sent it to him and said “here – something like this, but balanced to your power level.”

As one does.

Then a couple things happened.

  1. I ran into one of the players already in the game and we talked about the schedule for the game.
  2. Randy sent me the revised sheet, with all the math done.

These two events raised some concerns for me.

Looking at the finalized character sheet resulted in a strong negative reaction. A gut reaction. It may be fair to say that my penetralia actually cringed — absent any motive will on my part — seeking to drag me away from the computer and the thing on the screen by my very entrails. It’s not that the design of the character was bad or that it didn’t do what I wanted — it’s that the mechanics and game the sheet represents just make me angry. Angry and filled with a helpless kind of dread.

I’m starting to suspect that all those years of d20 gaming actually damaged me. I wonder if don’t remember this because I can’t.

Show me on the character sheet where it touched you...

Secondarily, I’m concerned about (any) games where the schedule is “we start at Xpm, and play to whenever.” That sort of play has historically been frustrating for me. Seeing it posted as the consilii diem amounts to a huge fucking red flag labeled “You Will Regret This.”

Tim may laugh at this, but I’ve developed a huge appreciation for the games I’ve played that have a time constraint on the amount of time available to play. They are, uniformly, the games I’ve enjoyed the most, and which gave the most satisfying results and focused play. TiHE (until we switched from “Monday nights” to “all-day Sundays”). The Wednesday night gaming series. Mouseguard (which is actually time-constrained within the game itself). Dragon Age (sessions that, while on the weekends, have all had hard-stops built in). Most convention play is, I think, stronger for this. It may be the only thing I really miss about local conventions.

Maybe I’m just getting to the point where I’m not willing to give a game a shot if doesn’t meet certain baseline criteria — doubtful it can overcome the deficiency. Once bitten, twice shy?


My reaction to the basic core of the game system, though — like a growling, whining dog in the presence of a vampire — makes me suspect this may be something more/less than the reasoned response of a thinking adult with some significant non-game commitments.


  1. It’s not just you.

    The 3.x-style systems nauseate me now.

    And the endless, plotless crawl-style games hurt too.

  2. On point one –
    I began to feel that way about Amber a long time ago. I still get silly excited about AD&D, but I skipped most of versions 2&3 entirely.

    On point two –

    I have begun to think that setting boundaries is one of the most “adult” things people can do.

    “Play to whenever” lost a lot of people at the Tuesday meet-up I used to go to because while we love the games, the time-sink starts to feel like an obligation … even if it’s to hang out until “whenever” and, well, I want to get back home with some energy left.

    Focus is important, and part of focus and direction and all the parts that lead us to the “good stuff” are involved with limits. I don’t stay “focused to my best” for hours on end – it’s exhausting and leads to burn out.

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